The aroma of low tide permeated the cold morning air as we headed out toward the open Chesapeake Bay in Mike Breedlove’s Grady-White boat early last Friday morning. This was the second day of the 15th annual Mid-Atlantic Rockfish Shootout, and Mike, Randy Owen, Kevin Cheatham (we could do an entire article on Kevin and his outdoor exploits) and I were hoping to land 3 big stripers. The largest striped bass (aka rockfish) tournament on the East Coast boasted a top prize of almost $35,000 this year and we wanted to bring home our share of the dough. We’d had a good day Thursday and found ourselves in 4th place out of 84 teams with two big rockfish that weighed nearly 60 pounds total.

Luckily Mike had the tools and spare parts with him to get us back rolling after a wheel bearing blowout on the boat trailer delayed us almost 2 hours. With the help of good friends Teacher and his son Adam we made a mad dash to the weigh in scales before the 5 PM cut off. And thank goodness my momma, Mary Ellen Robertson Ragsdale, told me to wear my “long handle underwear” under my pants along with a warm cap and gloves. Last time she’d forgotten to remind me to dress appropriately and I found myself very underdressed for cold weather in a pair of Bermuda shorts, a T-Shirt and sandals. She’d also advised me to “don’t get on no little bitty boat and go out in that rough water”. She felt that I would “need to be warm and safe and don’t catch a cold”. And my dad, John Henry Bowen, said “don’t fall ote the bote”. Thank goodness both my parents love me so.

We landed a couple of nice stripers Friday and missed a couple of strikes, but caught nothing like the eventual first place winners on the boat Shonuf. They landed three giants while fishing just a few miles from us and weighed in a total of 135.4 pounds to take home the big bucks. Our team, the “Kerr Lake Boys”, also got to cross the stage at the awards banquet in Virginia Beach Saturday night. Our 6th place finish earned us almost $1,100, enough to pay back our entry fees and most of our expenses. And I headed home Saturday night in the snow with some delicious striper filets.

One correction to my remark in last weeks column about my first time eating seafood at a gas station - I actually had eaten crab cakes over 40 years ago at a restaurant that was connected to the Shell station on Highway 39 where it crosses I-85. Herb Siner and his father ran “Kerr Lake Restaurant” and my then future bride Susan worked there as a waitress. I can still see her and taste the crispy crab cakes she served me. Susan said she loved being a waitress, partly since it’s one of the few professions where you get paid daily.

Area fishing tournament updates – The 2018 “Ice Bowl Catfish Tournament” will be held on January 27th 2018 and launch from Occoneechee State Park. Pre-registration for the event will take place Friday January 26th, 2018 at the Lamp Lighter in Clarksville Va from 2:00pm – 6:30pm and the mandatory Pre-Registration Captains meeting will begin at 7:00pm. Entry is $50 per bote and there’s an optional $20 side pot. They have a Facebook page with more information.

Next week’s report - Christmas preparations and a fishing update from the Chesapeake Bay.

Tip of the week – Pay attention to your parents.

Contact the writer by email at waltbowen@yahoo.com